Well-Done, Sister Suffragette

What Women Really Think
Aug. 26 2011 3:07 PM

Well-Done, Sister Suffragette

It’s easy to forget, amid the swirling campaigns and powerful rhetoric of women like Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, and Elizabeth Warren, that women fighting for the right to vote in the early 1900s were once imprisoned and beaten. Today, on the 91st anniversary of women’s suffrage, we can recall their struggles with vivid visuals: the cartoons of propagandist Nina Allender.

Born in Kansas in 1872, Allender studied painting at the Corcoran School of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. One Sunday in early 1913, Alice Paul, founder of the National Woman’s Party, visited Allender to ask her to work for the suffrage movement. She agreed.

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“She really created a new suffragist image, a new female image,” says Jennifer Krafchik, the assistant director of the Sewall-Belmont House Museum, where the only known collection of Allender’s pictures are now on display. “We went from these traditional images of suffragists looking haggard, angry, and distorted to women who not only had shape and beauty but were intelligent and forceful.”

The fiercely courageous woman typical of Allender’s work became known as the Allender girl, a figure who “expressed the new spirit that came into the suffrage movement when Alice Paul and Lucy Burns came to the National Capital in 1913 and opened their little basement headquarters,” noted the Suffragist circa 1916.

Click on the slideshow below to view some of Allender’s most powerful cartoons and a few images of suffragists picketing outside the White House.

Elizabeth Weingarten is the associate editor at New America and the associate director of its Global Gender Parity Initiative.